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Thunderscape Vistas: Academy of Mechamagic
Thunderscape Vistas: Academy of Mechamagic
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EPOCH: Frontier of Fear
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/25/2014 09:19:58
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=41058.

Frontier of Fear is a collection of sci-fi horror scenarios for EPOCH. Although these, and probably all, scenarios for EPOCH are designed to be one-shot, they can ultimately be linked together as they revolve around the same basic background structure – the not-too-distant future where humans have started exploring other areas of our solar system and corporations have funded expeditions throughout for various purposes. The four scenarios are Red Gold, Space Station Icarus, Quintessence, and Hard Time. Each one is set within the aforementioned backdrop and all take place away from Earth. Although they are set within the same basic setting, they are not actually linked, although the GM could link them if desired. Frontier of Fear is also accompanied by a new set of cards that correspond to the scenarios.

EPOCH is an interesting game to define. The ‘CH’ within its name pretty much says it all: Cinematic Horror. However, do not confuse some forms of cinematic horror with what EPOCH recreates. Whereas cinematic horror may refer to a horror RPG that has qualities akin to a ‘slasher flick’, in EPOCH, you are actually creating a horror movie. Each player assumes the role of an on-screen character, fighting to avoid being the tragic zero that dies for no good reason. For a heroic death is good in a horror movie, as is survival, but a tragic death which doesn’t help the other characters survive leaves you wondering what that character was for. This is the ultimate struggle of a good EPOCH game: to create a memorable character that doesn’t necessarily have to survive.

With this in mind, Frontier of Fear creates the environment to produce four sci-fi horror movies through role-playing. The way these scenarios are presented is incredibly simple, straight-forward, and easily understood. It’s almost like watching a movie unfold, filling in the blanks as you go along. If I can get this effect from reading through it, imagine how awesome that experience could be when you slot yourself into those blanks with a character you created.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
EPOCH: Frontier of Fear
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Epoch
by Thomas B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/07/2014 18:41:39
WHAT WORKS: EPOCH boasts a very interesting mechanic, akin to many semicooperative board games. You are trying to survive, yeah (and someone is probably going to die), but it's all for naught if you fail to rack up enough points to beat the Horror Track. The freeform roleplaying is more likely to appeal to non-gamers or casual gamers. There is a great amount of support available for the game, and the price point for the book is low, making the purchase of the card deck not seem like such a big extra expense.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: Your average roleplayer may be thrown by the game lacking even a trait system, much less stats or ability scores. In some groups, a dominant personality could overrun the game, and the Hero/Zero mechanic could breed some resentment with the wrong players, especially if they feel picked on for not getting enough votes, or being targeted with Zero cards.

CONCLUSION: Definitely not the normal fare for RPGs, EPOCH is a very different take on horror roleplaying, putting the onus very much on the Player-As-Character. That said, the Outcome and Hero/Zero mechanics ensure that the game never comes down to "I win, because I said I do". With the right group who doesn't take anything too personal, it seems like a great game to play in between breaks from other games, though groups with more tense dynamics could run into problems. It could be really great for a convention game, as the lack of personal connections among the group seem like it could actually help, rather than hinder, in this game. I hope to bring this to my table very soon, but from reading, it seems like it could be a great deal if fun if your group isn't afraid of breaking the mold a bit.

For my full review, please visit http://mostunreadblogever.blogspot.com/2014/01/tommys-take-o-
n-epoch-experimental.html

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Epoch
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EPOCH: Silent Night
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/06/2013 15:05:41
And you thought that the worst part of the annual Christmas trip was putting up with the in-laws during the festive season... be glad that your trip does not take you through Patterson Falls, a small town with a dark and cold secret.

The action in this chilly claustrophobic adventure begins with the characters travelling through nigh-blizzard conditions, and for some reason (several suggestions are given) ending up on a small commuter flight to Patterson Falls. Here they take refuge in a warm concourse from a raging blizzard whilst their plane is refuelled... but strange figures half-glimpsed through the swirling snow are only the beginning of the horror to engulf them.

From then on in, strange event upon strange event challenge the characters' mental and physical resilience. If they can figure it all out, there is a massive moral dilemma to face... those who survive will not forget this night for years to come. There's loads of evocative detail: locals, the airport and township, the events which transpire... much that will make the whole scene spring into vivid reality in your players' minds. There is a wealth of ideas to aid you in facilitating this, showing you how to use the resources provided to best effect.

Even if you do not play Epoch, the outline of this adventure could be adapted to whatever contemporary horror ruleset you prefer, inserting any necessary game mechanics for yourself.

It's a long, cold silent night just waiting for some hapless characters...

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
EPOCH: Silent Night
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Sundown
by Michael D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/08/2013 12:55:31
Cthulhu Wild West... without the spaghetti. Yes, it's gritty. Yes, it's deadly. Yes, it is a fine intro to CoC in the old west.... not the Clint Eastwood Spaghetti Western Old West... but the Old West... grim, gritty... violent sometimes.... This is one crunchy morsel... expect high lethality.... you may have to pull some strings as GM to not invoke total party annihilation... Excellent product. If this is what we can expect from this company, I suspect their products will be worth actually paying for.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Sundown
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Epoch
by mark k. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/21/2013 09:29:27
My Full Review is at http://madmindgamer.blogspot.com/2013/01/review-epoch.htmlr />
Epoch is a horror game that will test your role playing skills and your mental capacities. It is serious roleplaying in which it is imperative to be invested in both your character and the story. It will make you uncomfortable at times and force you to make the hard decisions. In the end, it delivers what it promises. You will get a unique horror experience that you will remember, and at the end of the day, that's all that matters.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Epoch
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Epoch
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/20/2012 20:17:50
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=30327.

EPOCH is epic! This is more than just a role-playing game, in that it is also a new kind of narrative tool with the power to improve your storytelling and role-playing in general. EPOCH is a cooperative game, meaning that the players and Game Master work together to weave a quality horror story. It is a contemporary horror game, but the elements of the game can easily be ported to other genres.

This review was delayed by a considerable margin, much to the chagrin of my Chief Editor, for a very selfish reason. Upon reading the book and assembling the cards, I gathered some players and began to play . . . and play . . . and play.

We played the Tension Phases, in which drama is built up and invoked. We played Challenge Rounds, in which some characters survived and those who ran out of the right sorts of cards perished in a particularly entertaining and horrific manner through total mental collapse, death, or something much worse. We cringed. We laughed. We voted for the most interesting character, who received a card back that had been played and therefore had a better chance of surviving the total game. These games went on. Addicted, we played more. So it went.

You’ll notice that certain keywords in this review are capitalized. These correspond to major categories of cards. This game is played with cards – lots of cards. There are no dice involved. Cards drive the narrative progression. Cards define your Relationships, be they Colleagues, Friends, Family, or Strangers. Cards are used to portray your Traits, Strengths, and Weaknesses – and you get to keep them secret until you use them in the game.

When you run out of certain cards, the opportunity to role-play a quality doom is upon you. Scream. Throw yourself on the floor and have a fit. Cower in a corner, whispering strange nonsense. Die poetically, or badly – it’s your choice. Think of any horror movie you’ve ever seen. EPOCH lets you enter such a story and play it to whatever extreme your creativity permits. As a horror game, it allows three possible Outcomes, using a tool known as the Horror Track: Defeat, Hollow Victory, or Total Victory. The more points the characters score as they work through the story, the better the outcome.

OVERALL

I have been enthralled by EPOCH. This is a totally new way to run a role-playing game and is extremely satisfying. EPOCH is also educational, and the mechanics force a cooperative structure and atmosphere that can enhance the play of other role-playing games as well. Get it.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 9 out of 10
This rating will improve to 10 out of 10 as soon as a professionally-rendered print-on-demand set of playing cards is available. As a PDF product, the graphics, type, and structure are excellent. Full sets of cards are well-rendered and everything you need to play is presented in an excellent fashion. The different types of content are visually separated, and the progression of information is well-formatted. I found that assembling my deck of cards took quite a while. It was well worth the work but, being a lazy sort dedicated to instant gratification, this took some effort. To our great fortune, Imaginary Empire is planning to release a print-on-demand EPOCH card deck in 2013, along with two sci-fi scenarios and an additional volume with optional rules, additional scenarios, and advice on constructing your own storylines.

Until then, here’s a helpful hint: print the PDF cards using “actual size” rather than “fit to printing area”. Use a good thick paper 30 – 50 lb stock. Cut the cards out carefully towards the inside edge of the thick black lines. The fronts and backs can then be slid into clear Ulta Pro 54 mm by 80 mm Board Game Sleeves. These can be found online in packs of 50. Get two packs.

Mechanics: 10 out of 10
The mechanics are laid out systematically and the breakdown has been structured in a way that makes the system easy to grasp. There is a one-page overview sheet that shows the structure of the entire game, complete with page references for immediate review. EPOCH is a different type of game, so there is much to learn, and this has been structured in an excellent fashion.

Desire to Play: 9 out of 10
The only reason this isn’t a 10 rating is that EPOCH is very different from most games in this genre. There are some players who might rebel against the lack of dice in a purely card-driven system. There is very little room in EPOCH for the admittedly popular adversarial relationship between the Game Master (GM) and the players, so there may be certain players who might not be able to adapt to this extremely different narrative approach.

Overall: 9 out of 10
In conclusion, EPOCH has already improved the quality of my own role-playing and story-telling. I have complete confidence that it can do the same for you. Give it a try.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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Epoch
by robert e. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/12/2012 20:23:04
Played this for the first time last week. Amazing!!

As with the previous reviewers comments, the system really encourages over the top characters and roleplaying. It was my fault as GM, but the game did turn into a bit of a comedy horror extravaganza.

Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the game, though one player had a gripe with the rules ( maybe because he was the first to die. :-) )

This game has encouraged the players to roleplay more in our regular games ( Call of Cthulhu, Delta Green and WFRP), which makes it worth much more than $7.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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Epoch
by Igor D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/04/2012 02:36:44
Excellent game.

We had over-the-top characters and flashbacks that the group used to describe their characters and reveal their secrets. The voting system did push us a bit to be interesting, but in the spirit of the genre that wasn't too hard. If you like cheesy sci-fi and horror films, this game is amazing. It really got the group roleplaying and laughing.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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Sundown
by Jeffrey V. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/07/2011 19:46:32
This is an excellent one-shot adventure, and one certainly can't quibble with the price. Production values are pretty good, and the plot, though it tends to force the players into a specific path, has some variability in it allowing for certain side adventures. There is a brief sketch of Tombstone that provides enough information to play it to the extent necessary for this adventure. Eight pre-generated investigators are provided, including two women in case your group has any ladies in it. The encounters aren't too pre-scripted which gives the players some opportunity to vary the outcome in each individual case. The various confrontations aren't particularly deadly, though the final scene can be very bloody indeed. The author has also provided some adventure seeds in case you want to use the scenario in an extended campaign. In fact, this could be a very good starting scenario for an old-west campaign setting, though it would require some significant work in order to ensure the players can develop a gradual understanding of the mythos despite being forced to confront the monsters at the end -- still, they aren't major monsters and they are different enough that they could lead to further complications later on. Finally, it would be an interesting change of pace for your group, even as a one-shot adventure (and would result in an interesting back-story to a new threat arising in the classic or modern era...).

All in all, its an excellent effort with general verisimilitude to the western culture, (barring one glaring mis-reference to the "Pony Express" which apparently used wagons to deliver the mail in the author's world, instead of riding ponies and carrying the mail in their saddle bags.)

Overall I gave it a four for being a one-shot adventure as well as being somewhat "rail-roady" in its nature. Anyway, as I noted earlier, the price is right, and I strongly urge you to acquire a copy while you can!

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Sundown
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Al Shir-Ma
by Malcolm H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/02/2011 18:48:57
A beautiful Arabian fantasy. It needs a bit of polish, but the game is sound and delivers in play. The characters are highly detailed and woven together in a network of romance, treachery and revenge which should keep people busy for the expected three hours. Pay attention to your set dressing and you will have a very memorable larp experience. Recommended.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Al Shir-Ma
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Epoch

01.Epoch
02.EPOCH: Shadows of Yesterday
03.EPOCH: Silent Night
04.EPOCH: War Stories
05.EPOCH: Frontier of Fear
06.EPOCH: Card Deck
07.EPOCH: Frontier of Fear Card Deck
08.Al Shir-Ma
09.Sundown
10.EPOCH: Fever Pitch
11.EPOCH: Road Trip
12.EPOCH: The Cold Shore
 
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